BORO farmers incur losses as middlemen continue to control the procurement process. Government intervention in setting the price of 40 kilograms of boro paddy at Tk 1,040, as farmers and agriculturists say, did not safeguard the farmers against losses as they are forced to sell the paddy for prices between Tk 500 and Tk 600, which is less than a day labourer’s daily wage. Farmers are reported to be counting Tk 300 in losses for 40 kilogams of paddy this season on the largest wholesale rice market at Ashuganj. The same is the case all over the country. At the news of declining boro prices, farmers, therefore, are holding protests. Disappointed at the situation, a farmer in Tangail even burnt his crop without harvesting. Farmers’ organisation Bangladesh Krishak Samiti at protests in Dhaka on Friday called on the government to take steps to save them from incurring losses. Student organisations also lent their support to the farmer’s cause. As the farmers struggle to bring harvest home because of labour shortage, students of different educational institutions volunteered their help. The government is, however, yet to make any effective intervention in regulating the purchase of rice mill owners and middlemen, who force farmers to sell harvest at prices lower than the production cost.
Agricultural and farming practice have become progressively dependent on agro-industry. Such a dependence has taken over the seed and fertiliser market, which eventually increases the production cost. As there is no concrete system of selling, farmers sell their produces to nearby markets and rice mills which entails further cost and labour. On the Ashuganj rice wholesale market, farmers are reported to have waited their turn for three days to sell their paddy. As the farmers need to depend on middlemen and mill owners to sell their harvest, they are left vulnerable to various frauds which include arbitrary pricing. When the bumper production of boro was expected to ensure some level of economic and food security, the fate of farmers in the current season have become uncertain as they incurred heavy losses. The Brahmanbaria district administration asked the farmers to sell their paddy to the upazila food warehouse to get fair price although the warehouse does not have the facility to directly buy ad store paddy from farmers. The rice mill owners’ association in the district asked the government to stop importing rice and buy more rice from farmers. The food secretary, meanwhile, talked of the government’s plan to procure paddy directly from farmers and to build 200 silos across the country, but the secretary said nothing about the situation at hand. It is evident from government responses and rice mill owners statements that they are not working in the best interest of the farmers.
The government, under the circumstance, must immediately intervene and take control of paddy purchase to ensure that middlemen and mill owners do not arbitrarily set prices of boro depriving the farmers. It must initiate and facilitate the process of buying directly from farmers at prices that protect farmer’s interest. In the long term, the government should develop a mechanism to better control the market to prevent the recurring dominance of middlemen of the rice market.
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